Sunday, May 29, 2016

Thoughts by LeRon

You may be interested in some of LeRon's thoughts.  So far, you've only gotten mine (Colleen).  Here goes:

Each day as we drive to our office, which is right in the main downtown area, and the traffic is so wild, we have an adventure. Luckily, nobody is going really fast so it's almost like a comedy. There are traffic lights and signs and lines, but nobody pays any attention to them, now including us.  The traffic circles, of which there are many, are an absolute circus.  At first, I was scared to death but now, I am almost as aggressive as most.  However, most vehicles have a dent or two so I am hoping I can avoid that fate.

The people here are very warm and friendly, both in and out of the Church.  When we got here, we were told that we would soon not even notice "color" and though I doubted it at first, it is becoming true.  They are really a beautiful people.  We were also told, and we are really noticing it, that the general population is far more Christian than at home.  Jesus slogans are everywhere -- signs, billboards, and splashed across the buses, which are very brightly and uniquely painted.  (We need to get some pictures for our blog).

We were kind of "snowed under" initially by the complexity of our office duties and responsibilities but we are starting to get the hang of it now and I can even see a few things I think I can improve upon.  Our mission President is a great man and we are truly loving him and his wife.  His replacement comes on July 1 and is a black South African so that will be another wonderful experience.  He will be the first Black mission president here in Kenya.   And yes, that is politically correct to say.  White African and Black African are OK to say.  I joked with our black African Branch president that I scared some Black Africans so bad with my driving that they almost turned into White Africans!  He had a good laugh at that.

Well, we can see that we are needed here.  An unofficial duty is to be grandparents to the young missionaries and we can do that.  They are great, but very young.  The trend has been to have mostly Black African Elders called here in Africa, both from Kenya and other African countries, but the Area President told us that we are going to see a gradual switch to about 50/50 Black/White so that more of the leadership and "growing up in the church" experience of most of the White Elders can be shared with the Blacks.  There are no white young Sister Missionaries serving in this mission, just Black Sisters, although I do not know about any other African missions in that regard.

Those are some of my thoughts.

Kenyan People are Beautfiul

Just a thought . . . Sometimes we think that because people look different or because they speak English with a strange accent that they somehow aren't as smart as the rest of us.  But oh my . . . we've met some very amazing people whose skin is very black and who speak English in very hard to understand accents.  But they are humble and very intelligent and they have strong testimonies of Jesus Christ.

Today in our meetings, we were well-taught by these humble, good African people.  They sing the hymns with gusto even though the piano is broken so it's all A Capella.  They pray sincerely and fervently without "multiplying many words."  They teach the gospel in pure and simple language.  They have strong desires to study the scriptures (and do they ever know their Bibles!) and to keep the commandments.

I'm a little worried because LeRon and I have been asked to speak in church in two weeks.  I've spoken a lot through the years, but the thought of facing these lovely people is very intimidating.  I want to teach as purely and as simply as they are teaching me.  I'll have to do a lot of praying about it.

Here's a thought to end on:  In Tanzania, where the official language is Kiswahili (not Sawhili -- it's Kiswahili), and where it is VERY hot, when a person is asked how he's doing, he answers "Baridi" (bar-eedee) which means "cold".  So if you're doing good in Tanzania, you are "cold" or "cool" because no one is EVER physically cold or cool.  They are always sweating hot.  Does that make sense?  I thought that was cute.

Lesson Learned: Follow the Map

On Saturday, we braved the traffic to go to a different mall than we're used to shopping at.  We had a map.  We also had GPS coordinates.  No such things as addresses around here.  In fact when we were buying internet time, we were asked where we lived.  Our minds went blank.  I said, "Well, we know how to get there.  We live on such and such a road."  And that was good enough!

Anyway, we had entered some coordinates for this mall that we got from another senior missionary.  So we were following the GPS and I was following the map.  When they disagreed, we decided to follow the GPS.  Not a good idea.  It took us all over the place.  Finally, we followed the map like we should have done in the first place.  And there was the mall!!  What should have taken 20 minutes took over an hour!!

We love these tiny bananas.  So sweet and tasty.  We buy these from a roadside stand on our way home.  Look at that cute "double banana".
Poinsettias grow here.  It was so tall that I could hardly get the camera high enough.
Here's Elder Torrie in his non-missionary clothes (i.e. our walking clothes) beside the poinsettia tree.  It's as tall as he is.
A flock of geese to greet me as I walk.
I can't get enough of these gorgeous bougainvilleas.  They grow as a tee but also as a vine so they grow all over the other trees.  So pretty.  And so many different colors.
We've seen these monkey puzzle trees in other countries.  So interesting.
Here's a close-up of its interesting needles/leaves.  

A Busy Week

This past week has been busy.  I had to apply for Special Pass permits for five American and two Zimbabwean missionaries who are coming to Kenya in about three weeks.  It's pretty critical to get the special passes since right now all they have are tourist visas.  And with tourist visas, they can only be tourists, not missionaries.  We applied a long time ago for work permits but they haven't come through yet.  So I had to apply for the Special Passes to allow them to do missionary work before their Work Permits come.  Bureaucracy!!

The immigration site was down for two days.  I kept trying to get on but no luck.  Then finally by Thursday it was up again but it still took me all of Thursday and most of Friday to prepare all the documents.  Now we will just pray that they will come through quickly.  It's quite a process even after we've applied.

The Church wants us to be legal in every way so missionaries simply cannot do missionary work until they have either the Special Pass or the Work Permit.  Also, the Church does not pay bribes.  If it did, we'd probably have had the work permits already.  But we want to be legal in every way.

Besides working on passes, there was a myriad of other things to do.  Young missionaries kept coming in needing things and it's important to stop and visit with them.  They are so young -- some only 18 -- and they need that grandmotherly visit.  By the way, the young missionaries are also called "Elder" just like the Senior Missionary men are called "Elder."  It has nothing to do with age.  It's an office in the priesthood.  I always put that in the cover letters I write to Immigration because it can be confusing to those unfamiliar with our terminology.

On Friday our drive to the mission office only took 22 minutes!  That was an absolute record.  Of course on the way home it took an hour.  You just never know with the traffic.

After work on Tuesday, Elder Torrie spent a lot of time trying to get my washer going.  It's out my back door in this little alley bordered with a wood fence.  If you click on the picture you can see trees just above his head.  The pipe taking water in and out of the machine is a brittle plastic pipe that kept breaking.  Even as he duct taped one spot, another would break.  He finally got it working but it still took four hours to do two small loads of wash.  I'll be glad for my nice big washer and dryer when I get home in a year and a half!

These are some of the wonderful young Elders and Sisters who come into the office once in awhile.  So fun to visit with them.  They are amazing.  Don't the African Elders look nice with their white shirts?  The American Elders look nice too.  And so do the sweet Sisters.  L-R: Elder Akpu, Elder Mwaja, Elder _____, Elder Hales, Elder Musonda, Elder Lotulelei with Sisters Kiio and Alinyo in front.

You'd never know that I am Canadian by the way I am freezing in our apartment.  The walls are cement and the floor is ceramic tile and in the evenings it gets SO cold.  So I bought this nice warm wool sweater.  I wear it every evening.  I'd like to know what temperature it is.  Probably 20 C.  That's my favorite temperature at home but here it's more humid (but not as humid as I expected) so it feels very cold.  People here wear toques and heavy coats in the mornings and at night.  They tell me that it's winter but that July and August will be even colder.  I bought a wall thermometer so I could see the temperature but when LeRon slammed on the brakes on our drive home, the package fell on the floor and the thermometer broke.  Darn!
The day I took this picture out the car window, it was a sunny warm day.  Lots of street vendors.  This young man was cooking corn on the cob.  I'm sure it's not as tasty as Taber corn!  (Corn here is not the super sweet corn we grow in southern Alberta; I have not been able to eat it.)
Stopped in traffic.  Hawkers hawking their wares.  I thought this one was funny.  A bunch of stuffed animals, including a yellow Tweety-bird. 
This hawker is doing his best to make a sale to the person in this black vehicle.  And . . . he succeeded.  He sold everything except the yellow Tweety-Bird.  And all to the black vehicle.  The next hawker was selling slippers.  How cool is that?
And this one is selling plastic containers.  We've also seen ties, belts, passport covers (I thought they were fake Kenyan passports at first but was assured they're just passport covers), pencils, pens, balloons, balls, hats, Scrabble games, Monopoly games, of course all kinds of fruit.  I talked with a Kenyan and he said that those selling fruit probably grow it on their plots of land.  The other hawkers buy their wares and then try to make a profit.  The only thing I've bought thus far is bananas.  (Note from later:  I also bought a badminton racket-looking thing that is actually an electric mosquito swatter.  Works really well.  You plug it in to the wall to charge it and it zaps the mosquitoes or moths.)
Still trying to get a good picture of the crazy traffic.  This is three lanes of traffic all needing to merge into one lane.  The biggest vehicles usually win out.
We're walking in our neighborhood.  So fun to see goats and cattle.  And NO WALLS!!!  I'm glad I brought my walking sticks.  Helps to exercise my arms.  I get funny looks from Kenyans.  They probably think I'm crippled and need two canes!  I tell them they're my exercise sticks but I don't think they believe me.
LeRon's glad he brought his Tilley Hat.  Since he's lacking hair on top, it's helped prevent more sunburns.  He was out in the sun for one hour one day and got a little burn on the top of his head.  This is more of our neighborhood.  So nice and quiet and pastoral.  (Note from later:  LeRon gave his Tilley Hat to Elder Barnard who needed it worse than Elder Torrie did.  Elder Barnard's head was very sensitive to the hot Dar Es Salaam sun).
We had a nice visit with a university student who lives nearby.  Moses is a Masai (from the Masai tribe).  You can google for Masai to see pictures of them in their native clothing.  He said that polygamy has been very common in Masai culture but not any more.  When he marries, he wants to have just one wife.  He knows of one man who had 19 wives and 200 children!!  Our name tags give us a nice opportunity to explain about our church and our mission.  Most Kenyans also love Jesus Christ and are happy to talk about him. Even those who adhere to their tribal religions also claim they are Christians and love to hear about Jesus.
Lovely yellow blossoms on this tree.
Colleen and Craig Smith (LeRon's sister and husband) will be happy to see this cute little goat since they raise goats too.
A lovely herd of goats.  They are in a fenced area with a gate that is wide open.  Sometimes they do get out but there's usually (but not always) a shepherd near by.  We enjoy the bucolic scenery as we walk each day.

So happy to have this nice big stove with two electric burners and four gas burners.  LeRon's been helping a lot with the cooking, which is wonderful.  I've cooked for more than 45 years and I'm getting tired of it.  Last night I made an oatmeal cake.  I call it leftover porridge cake.  It's really good.  But in the middle of the making, I realized I had no baking powder or baking soda.  But I thought the flour I was using was self-rising.  But . . . it was not!  Very heavy cake!  I need to go shopping.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Sabbath in our New Branch, the Langata Branch

Yesterday we went to our new branch for the first time.  The Langata Branch is very small.  Like one sister said, "We are few."  It reminded me of our little Grassy Lake Ward before we were closed down.  There were about 25 people there.  I was amazed at how reverent the children were.  One family of four children sat quietly by themselves (without any parents there).  I'm not sure who they belonged to.  When we got there (about 10 minutes before start time), everyone was sitting very quietly waiting.  No one was playing the piano for prelude music so LeRon offered to play but was told the piano is broken.  We learned that the church had been broken into a couple of weeks ago and everything of value had been taken or broken.  The sound system with microphone was gone.  The computer for the clerk's office was gone.  So sad.  Now they are posting guards 24 hrs/day.

But could those few people ever sing!  LeRon was asked to lead the singing, so he sang a few bars and then everyone joined in.  And in Relief Society, there were only four of us and no piano but did those African sisters ever sing.  Wow.  Impressive.  We in the West could learn lots about enthusiastic singing.

But during the whole three hours of church time -- an hour for sacrament meeting, then an hour for Sunday School and an hour for Relief Society/ Priesthood meeting/Primary -- the church next door was having a VERY loud revival meeting.  The drums were beating so loudly that I had to really concentrate to hear the speakers in sacrament meeting (especially with no microphone).  African people speak very softly at best.  So for the three hours we were meeting, the revival meeting pounded on and on.  When we were done, so were they!  The members say that it happens every Sunday no matter what time we start our meetings.  Hmn . . .

There was a very good feeling in that little branch.  The spirit was strong as they bore testimony of the love of Jesus Christ and how important it is to follow him.  The Sunday School and Relief Society lessons were masterfully taught by humble Kenyan people.  I was very impressed.

After lunch and a nap, LeRon and I went for a walk in our lovely neighborhood.  So interesting to have NO WIND!  It was cool and lovely out.  Trees are so beautiful.  We stopped to talk with the guards who control the road into the area.  Then we went back to our compound and visited our next-door neighbor family who are a lovely Kenyan family.  The mom and dad, Sammy and Nancy, are the ages of our own kids.  They are born-again Christians with deep commitments to Jesus Christ.  We had an amazing visit with them as we each shared our beliefs and found much common ground.  Then they wanted to know about life in Canada.  They could not believe that we can actually function in the winter.  

Nancy wanted to serve us tea as Kenyan families ALWAYS give something to people who visit.  We explained about the Word of Wisdom.  Although they drink tea, they do not drink alcohol, nor do they smoke or use drugs.  They wanted to serve us something so they gave us very hot chocolate milk, which was very good once it cooled down a bit.

I need to get my kitchen more functional so I can serve something to them when they come over.  So nice to have nice neighbors who want to get to know everyone.  There are many countries represented by the people in this compound.

Here are President & Sister Hicken and cute branch member, Patricia, outside of our Langata Branch meetinghouse.  Not sure how this building was broken into with all the bars everywhere.  Above are branch members, Betty and Daisy.  (Somehow I was unable to separate the two pictures.)
Elcan was so good during the hour-long sacrament meeting.  Isn't he adorable in his little suit?

Here's another cute young branch member.  He was a little shy.  I don't know if he could speak English or not.  But all school children learn both English and Kiswahili in school.  They also speak their own tribal language.  Everyone speaks many languages except us in North America.  We need to get with the times!
Such pretty flowers on the trees.  Have you seen anything like this before?  I can see why they call it a bottle brush tree.

LeRon and I went for a walk in our neighborhood on Sunday afternoon.  Bananas growing everywhere.  They are so delicious.  We buy them from the grocery store or from a stand along the highway or from the sellers walking among the cars on the road.  All fruit must be bleach-washed before we eat it.

Another interesting flowering tree.  Or fruiting tree.

Look at these interesting fan shaped plants.  But walls everywhere.  Sometimes I feel walled in.  Yards are so pretty . . . if only you could see them!

We went down a pretty lane and discovered three houses all surrounded with walls and barbed wire.  The big tank on top is the water tank.  It runs by gravity.  All the homes have these tanks on top.  We don't have pressure tanks.  So if the power goes off, we still have water.  So nice.  Unlike when the power goes off on the farm.

Here I am by a "Secret Garden."  How can I enter it?  Where is the key?  Actually I don't want to get caught by security anyway.

Beautiful bougainvillea.

This is the way into our little area.  These guards won't lift the pole across the road unless they know who you are.  When we first came, we had to tell them where we were living and that we were missionaries.  Our name tags help.  All of the roads in this area of Nairobi have poles across them.  The guards raise them with a rope.  You have to to be able to tell them where you're going and why.  But once you go one time, they remember you and you don't have to tell them again.  Now we just wave at the guards and tell them to have a nice day as they raise the pole for us.

Our guards, Josephat and Robert.  Each guard works for 12 hours so there are guards 24 hrs/day.  Really nice fellows.  They are both married with children.  Both born-again Christians.  We had a lovely visit with them.  Must be awfully hard to do the midnight shift.

Now we're back to the entrance to our compound.  Again, the guards will only open the gate if they know who we are.
Prince and his sister Joy were some of the first children to welcome us to the neighborhood.  Don't you love their names?

And here's Prince's sister, Joy.  

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Orphan Baby Elephants

Yesterday, on our P-Day (our preparation day) our mission president, President Hicken, and his wife took us to see the orphan baby elephants at the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage which is on the edge of the Nairobi National Park.  These are baby elephants from the wild whose mothers have died or who have been killed by poachers.  Kenya has a real problem with poachers who kill the elephants for the ivory in their tusks.  Just a few weeks ago Kenya burned a whole pile of tusks as a statement to the world that the tusks are not to be used to make money.  If people wouldn't buy them, the poachers wouldn't kill the elephants for them.  Piano keys used to be made of ivory.

Sometimes they find baby elephants that have fallen down well holes.  Sometimes they have been caught in traps.  One of the elephants had his leg hanging by the skin from being caught in a trap.  He now walks with a decided limp but they have hopes that he will yet gain full use of his leg.

When they find these baby elephants, they bring them back to this refuge.  The keepers take care of the babies 24 hours per day.  The public is allowed to see them for only one hour per day.  That way, they have little contact with people (except for their keepers).  Eventually, when the elephants are about 3 years old, they will gradually be introduced back into the wild.

You've heard the saying, "Elephants never forget."  Well these elephants never forget their keepers, even after they've been back in the wild for years.  If they get sick or hurt, they automatically return to this refuge for help.  When they're better, they go back into the wild.  Since the refuge started, they have reintroduced 300 elephants back into the wild.

This refuge is just on the edge of Nairobi National Park which borders Nairobi.  We'll go driving there sometime on another P-Day.

Be sure to click on the pictures to enlarge them.

The babies are fed publicly once per day.  There are 33 orphan babies right now.  The keepers feed them formula specially developed by David Sheldrick's wife Daphne.  Many elephants died before the Sheldricks found a formula that worked.  Cow's milk will kill a baby elephant.  The babies are fed with large bottles of formula.  They're able to grab the bottles and hold them with their trunks.

Each elephant has a definite personality as well as physical markings.  The keepers know each elephant by name.

So fun to see the baby elephants.  When LeRon & I were in Thailand a couple of years ago, we got to ride an elephant for an hour into the bush.  It was an amazing experience.

This elephant looks pretty big for a baby.

Besides feeding them formula, the keepers bring in brush for the elephants to eat.  It was so amazing to see how they pick up a branch and pull the leaves off and put it in their mouths.

This baby kept going down to take a drink but every time he got near the water, he would start sliding down into it.  He finally gave up.

The babies were annoying each other!  Just like kids!

These babies were fighting over this branch.  Again . . . Just like kids!

The backs of their ears felt very rubbery.  When they came close to us, we got to reach out and feel them.

Their skin is so leathery looking.  I think they need to use some face cream!  Their skin felt so hard and rough.  Lots of tiny prickly hairs.

Long eyelashes too.

Even though this is a baby, you wouldn't want him to step on you.  This one came close to us and actually stepped over the rope.  We had to push him back to where he belonged.

So interesting when they flap their ears.

This is an older one.  You can see its tusks which are just growing in.  Just like human babies who are teething, the elephants also have discomfort and itchiness as the tusks are growing in.  Tusks start to come in when baby elephants are a few months old but they don't actually emerge for quite a long time.

This baby flipped its milk bottle away and it spilled.  Now he's trying to drink it up with his trunk.

These older babies are eating from an acacia tree.  Can you see the sharp needles on the tree? 

In the background is a herd of warthogs.  They were huge and were fighting amongst themselves.  I don't think I'd like to meet one in the dark!

After seeing the orphan baby elephants, the Hickens took us to a lovely restaurant called "Tamambo Karen Blixen Coffee Garden".  It's a gorgeous place with such beautiful green foliage.  We ate outside in the garden.
We met this artist, Eric Mathenge.  His and his colleague's paintings were displayed all over the gardens.  They paint in oil and acrylic.  We liked these black and white paintings.  We've learned that when we see something we like, we should buy it because we may never see it again.  But actually we could have seen it again because Eric is always here painting and displaying.
The top photo is of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and the bottom one is of Mt. Kenya in (of course) Kenya.  The artist lived near Mt. Kenya and so saw scenes like this every day when he was growing up.  Here LeRon, and President & Sister Hicken are showing off the paintings.